Group Nine’s science brand Seeker passed the 4 million subscriber mark on YouTube this summer.
That’s a bigger audience on the platform than other science-based media companies, like Discovery Channel (3.6 million) and Smithsonian (2.1 million).
The secret to growing Seeker’s YouTube subscriber count boils down to a focus on topics the brand’s core audience “knows and loves and comes back to us for,” and producing content around “untapped categories” in science topics, Seeker's Chief Content Officer Caroline Smith told Publishers Daily.
“How Close We Are," for example, is created from questions and comments from the Seeker audience on how close society is to saving the bees or colonizing the moon, with interviews from experts on their missions to solve those challenges.
“We take complex subjects and break them down and explain how they play in your everyday and shape your future… without dumbing down the issues,” Smith said.
The channel focuses particularly on three content pillars: space and innovation, health and wellness, and environment and conservation.
In terms of reach and engagement, Seeker is one of the top digital science/tech brands, according to data from Nielsen and Tubular.
“We treat the [Seeker YouTube] channel as its own network, and created consumption habits distinct to each franchise,” Smith said.
“Elements,” for example, produces multiple episodes a week each season on timely topics in the science world. Its audience tends to watch episodes within 48 hours of going live.
Seeker began on YouTube with “a more pop-sci” focus, featuring explainer videos and content that focused on “oddities in science.”
After the first few years, Seeker moved into serial and franchise video content.
Its flagship show “Focal Point,” for example, profiles innovations and discoveries “happening now that will shape generations to come,” from a new way to recycle fast fashion products to a bionic arm that can grow with its wearer, Smith said.
Watch time skyrocketed as a result — in the last 18 months. Watch time has grown 163%, and another 1 million people have subscribed to the YouTube channel.
The 26-person Seeker team recently found "a lack of interesting content from a visual and storytelling perspective” on diseases — the kind of illnesses that people Google search to get information.
In April, it launched “Sick," a series that Smith calls a “calculated risk in the untapped and underserved category bucket.” The show examines a different disease every episode and explains its impact on the body, like leprosy and HPV.
In the first 90 days since launching “Sick," viewers watched over 4.5 million minutes. The series has a nearly 70% average completion rate, according to the publisher.
Interviews with experts snowballed as interest in the series grew; it started with an eight-episode run, but now has enough content for 32 episodes, Smith said.
Last summer, Group Nine created a social video channel dedicated to space coverage, called Seeker Universe.
Seeker partnered with the International Space Station (ISS) National Lab to highlight research conducted on the orbiting laboratory.
The team found there was enough news to be covered around space travel — and with the access to resources from Seeker's partnership with ISS — to fuel a new franchise on upcoming space missions, called "Countdown To Launch."
The first season currently has seven episodes.
Seeker is now working on a series about conversation and the environment.
“We are looking at a solutions-oriented approach: Who are the thinkers and the companies driving real solutions to extinction and conservation,” Smith said.
The working title for the new show is “Rewild.” Like “Sick,” it will have a focus on SEO and a broader audience appeal.
Seeker will speak to researchers, engineers and scientists dedicated to saving the most vulnerable plants, animals, people and places on the plant.